July 27, 2015 – It began like this –
“In launcing this new blog, I hope to make an enthusiastic contribution to the new chapters that are being written about this place we call home. The theme of this site is Honoring the Past, Building a Future. I will be writing about places and people, past and present, places like The Rocky Mount Mills and the Historic Districts that are pearls of great price in our midst. I invite you to come and stand with me on Carr Street and listen once again to the echo of children’s laughter, and to the sound of the katydids in the trees.
A doctor will tell you they don’t know why attitude is important in getting well, they only know that it is. A positive attitude is paramount in the day to day efforts of building the future here in Rocky Mount, NC. The on going creative process takes time and patience while keeping our eye on the prize.”
I celebrated two of the anniversaries writing about Evan Chavez.
“The first post I wrote for Main Street Rocky Mount, July 27, 2015, featured Evan Covington Chavez. I said then and I say now, that this bright and capable woman is the poster child for this blog because she holds in her hands a two-sided coin. One side represents the past, and the other, the future. She is Capitol Broadcasting Company’s Development Manager for the Rocky Mount Mills. I think of Evan stepping onto a bridge that is under construction, and when the bridge is complete, she will have helped span the gap between once upon a time and what will be. Her dedication and hard work guarantee that her name will be remembered when the future story of the Rocky Mount Mills is told.”
Though I am a political junkie, it was not my attention to write about politics on the blog. The day came, against the advise of others, when I acknowledged that the path to the future kept landing me on the rocks of City Government.
“The Siren call lures nearby sailors to crash upon the rocks of the islands of dangerous creatures. It is their enchanting music and singing that calls them. I am lured by the story of Main Street and the significance of commercial and residential architecture. The corollary danger for me started with my research and learning. The more people that took me under their wing to talk, the more I grew to love the possibilities, yet ended up crashing on the rocks of City Government. I found that possibilities are mismanaged, certain members of the City Council rig the system, talented and good people leave or are pushed out, and we have an investigation into maleficence and the skullduggery of leadership that casts a wide net of consequences.
Crashing on these rocks, my writing on the Main Street blog shifted to finding answers that explain the state of things downtown and in the surrounding areas of neglect. I hate having to grapple with the possibility that we will never have real prosperity; the prosperity of spirit in people’s lives in Rocky Mount because certain members of the City Council game the system for their own benefit.”
With this anniversary, I return to the image of Peter Pan coming to the front of the stage. Because Tinker Bell’s light is fading, Peter says to the audiance, “Clap if you believe.” The clapping revives Tinker’s light and she lives on. As we begin another year together, I ask again, “Clap If You Believe!”
I want to celebrate this anniversary by honoring D.J. Rose once again because I never write about Main Street and the surrounding areas, the commercial and residential architecture of Rocky Mount, that I don’t think of him. His legacy can be found in the Ricks Hotel, the original Masonic Temple on Main Street, the May and Gorham building, Rocky Mount Municipal building on Main Street. the Peoples Bank building, the First Methodist and First Presbyterian Churches, Planters Cotton Seed Oil factory, Rocky Mount’s Railroad Passenger Station including the addition of the second and third floors, Rocky Mount’s first electric power plant and water plant, as well as portions of the building you know today as The Power Plant, the Sunset Avenue Water Plant and significant portions of Rocky Mount Mills buildings. Some of the schools he built are Abraham Lincoln, R. M. Wilson School, and Edgemont. The firm he founded, D. J. Rose and Son Inc., is the oldest continuously operating general contracting firm in North Carolina and to this day maintains the North Carolina General Contractors License number 27. The future that is being reimagined today is partially built upon the architectural assets Mr. Rose and his company contributed to Rocky Mount. We owe him our gratitude for his work and legacy.
I’ve written more about our local politics this year than any of the first three years combined. The blog has always been about anything but that. I suppose I’ve been preaching to my own choir (constituency) that largely agree with me, rather than reach the people I would hope to change. I keep thinking maybe someone on the far side of the moon from where I stand will hear me. So I keep trying!
Affordable and workforce housing made available in our existing neighborhoods is the top of my list these days along with rescuing a negative connotation of the word gentrification. According to Wikipedia, Gentrification is “a complex process involving physical improvement of the housing stock, housing tenure change from renting to owning, price rises and the displacement or replacement of the working-class population by the new middle class.”
To my way of thinking, playing the gentrification card is an excuse. The party line is if we fix roofs and put a new porch on – -why rents will go up and people will have to move, so the answer is to do nothing. Yet I am certain that if we ask the average ‘Joe’ in our at-risk areas, which they would prefer, an 18-million dollar garage and a hotel or money invested in fixing properties, making them safe, and decent to live in, saving our neighborhoods, would win.
I wish I could persuade the ‘at risk’ neighborhoods to look honestly at their councilman who discourage reinvestment in their Ward’s housing/neighborhoods because that will ultimately change their councilman’s constituency and that means votes. If our housing statistics are suppressed, it helps when applying for grant money. In the end, only the voters in each Ward can decide if after many years if anything has improved? We have a full slate of candidates, and an opportunity to select the ones that can put self-interest aside. People ask me, how can I help? How about a campaign donation? “White money” is being disparaged as a tool to discredit an opposing candidate, but never mind about that. Everyone gains with new leadership that believes A Rising Tide Lifts All Boats.
Thank you for reading and following Main Street. I hope you will continue to do so. The writing brings me joy and keeps my head in gear. I can’t imagine my life now without the many bright, and interesting people I meet. I’m grateful to wonderful friends who have taken me in and shared Rocky Mount as it once was and is becoming. I continue to believe and clap my hands. I hope you will too.